Is Hand Placement Important?

Just finished a workout (Kuk Sool-based) in the front yard. I want to cool down before I hit the shower, so that gives me some time to write up something I observed during the workout.

Hand placement. Does it matter? 

There are many movements in Kuk Sool techniques and forms where your hands become crossed, an X-Block formation with hands flat, crossed in an X at the wrists. Does it matter if the right hand or the left hand is on top?

Maybe.

The reason this came to light was during seminar, KJN Sung Jin was correcting a movement in Gum Moo Hyung. For those that know the form, it’s near the beginning where you are in long stance and perform an X block, retract your hands, slide your foot back and turn 180º, then extend the block back out. There was a correction in how the block was done, and I noticed KJN Sung Jin always placed his right hand “on top” (thus if extended in front of you, right hand closer to you, left hand closer to opponent). I realized I had been doing the opposite, so I figure if this is how KJN Sung Jin does it, this is how one ought to do it… even down to that detail.

So as I was working this morning, that was one thing I kept myself aware of. The movement comes up in various Kuk Sool forms and techniques, so it’s worthwhile to correct in all places. When I did this, I noticed how it slightly changed the attack/defend vector. Thus I started to wonder if the placement mattered.

Let’s take Maek Chi Ki or Maek Cha Ki as a good place to begin discussion. These techniques don’t necessarily involve a strict X-block (tho one could do it that way), but they do involve the use of both hands, one to block and one to strike or grab/trap. As you learn the techniques you come to realize that having one hand in front of the other can make a difference in the smoothness of performing the technique. For instance, having your right hand “on top” lends better to blocking/trapping with the left, following with the right attacking. This isn’t a strict requirement as in the heat of things you can flow either way, but the hands do get tied up less. 

Going back to the forms, it’s a similar setup. Look at the beginning of Cho Geup Hyung where the crossed hands are brought back to the side of the hip. From a position like that, the left hand (being “below”) is in a better position to move out, defend, etc. — it’s already “outside” and leading, made more so if you’re in a right-facing-left-foot-forward “offensive” stance. But you say, if you stay in that position and switch which hand is on top, it works out the same. This is almost true, and for most intents and purposes may work out the same or close enough. But now, put something in your right hand, like a weapon… could be a dan bong, a club, a sword, a handgun, a knife, whatever (this is assuming you are right-handed). That weapon is going to be extending from your right hand through the “V” between your thumb and index finger. If your left hand rests atop your right, that left hand is now obstructed by the weapon. If your right hand rests atop, the left hand is out of the way, able to reach out and do whatever it may need to do and keeping the weapon unobstructed.  But then, I could argue if it was a pistol in my right hand, pulling my left hand out from under could bring it in front of the muzzle; maybe, maybe not, depends how you move your hands, but it exists whereas with the left on top it does not. Or perhaps you’re holding a knife. If held in an ice-pick position, left hand under is certainly in an undesirable location.

One thing I thought of is that this demonstrates a need to be aware of your body at all times. Some situations may call for a different setup, even evidenced by Maek Chi/Cha Ki as efficient execution of those techniques do call for a different hand to be “in front/on top” for smoothest execution. Movement by rote may not be the best thing. But then, we do all of this practice and repetition so that our bodies do have a general way to move. My feeling is that if I can find a preferred way to place the hands I ought to practice that way so I do gain a particular way of movement. That way if I can be aware of myself I can adjust, but combat doesn’t always lend to minding every detail so having my body automatically move in the best way possible is desirable.

Do I have a definitive answer for this? No, not yet. I only just thought about it and as you can see am still thinking out loud about it. Could I be concerning myself with minutia that doesn’t matter? Perhaps, but I really won’t know it doesn’t matter until I explore if it does matter, else I just won’t know either way. Something to think about. Your comments welcome.

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